The “Value” Problem in Taxation

More than a few commentators on the left and elsewhere – as well as a host of Democratic legislators – are deploring the idea that families who earn more than $250,000 will be allowed to share in the continued lower tax rates of the so-called Bush tax cuts, and more than a few letters have graced the pages of various publications declaring that the rich and super-rich shouldn’t get such benefits.

Were the people who made $25,000 in the mid-1950s “rich?”  Certainly, no one I knew thought they were rich.  Well-off perhaps, even affluent, but certainly not anywhere close to rich.  Yet an income of $250,000 today is worth about what $25,000 was 60 years ago, perhaps even less, adjusted for inflation.  In real terms, even gasoline prices aren’t that much higher than then, and they’re certainly far lower, in terms of the purchasing power of the dollar, than they were during the “gas crisis” of the early 1970s.

To be fair about this, I’m just as appalled by those on the right who declare that increasing the taxes on those making more than $250,000 will bankrupt small businesses.  If a business making, say, $500,000 annually can’t afford an additional $10,000-$30,000 in taxes, then that business is in trouble already.  If the business is making enough to worry about increased taxes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s not a small business, besides which, at that level it should be incorporated and passing on those taxes to its customers, the way all the other U.S. corporations do – which is part of the reason why the whole idea of taxing corporate profits doesn’t make economic sense in a world economy… not that most politically motivated tax policies make economic sense.

I’d be among the first to admit that the United States government faces a fiscal crisis, but the reason why isn’t because the rich are greedy, or too many of the “poor” are undeserving, or that immigrants are “milking” the system, all of which are overblown stereotypes based on true anecdotes that are statistically a small proportion of what has caused our unbalanced budgets and deficits. The reason is that the American people, as a group, really have no understanding of numbers or what those numbers mean, and, unfortunately resist anyone or any institution that wants to enlighten them.  Nor is there any serious questioning of the basis of the whole idea of taxation as now practiced.  Admittedly, if we want government services, they have to be paid for.  But why do we continue with a system that isn’t raising the revenue necessary to cover the services we demand and yet reject either reducing demand or changing the basis of taxation?

If I walk into a McDonald’s and order a Big Mac, the cashier doesn’t ask me how much I make and price the sandwich accordingly.  The same is true at every retailer in the U.S. and for the majority of commercial services.  In fact, larger commercial customers usually get discounts for their larger orders. Yet all the services that the U.S. government supplies are essentially based on income and “cost” more the more someone makes.  Someone in the upper fifth of income in the U.S. pays a great deal more for his or her share of national defense, national parks, etc., than does someone in the lowest fifth, who often pays nothing at all.

Now… the rationale for higher individual costs of government [i.e., taxes] rests on the assumption that wealthier people benefit more from government and upon the idea that poorer people cannot afford to pay taxes.  Moreover, there is a feeling that it is somehow “unfair” to tax a well-off person and a poor person the same percentage of their income.  Yet, if one taxes someone who makes $100,000 at a ten percent rate, and someone who makes $20,000 at that same ten percent rate, the person who is better-off is paying $8,000 more than the poorer person for the same government services. That’s 400% more. If one then adds in the “progressive” tax structure, the person who is well-off may be paying tax rates of more than 20%, which works out to 900% more. Does that person who is well-off get nine times more government services?  No.

In fact, it’s likely that the poorer individuals get more government benefits than wealthier individuals.  I emphasize the word individuals because once one factors in corporations, that picture changes.  Various organizations, from foundations to industries, do in fact get large benefits, and because, in effect, as I’ve discussed many times before, corporations essentially pay no taxes because they pass those costs on to the customers and consumers,  they have often have no real costs, or reduced costs, for the government services they receive.

Larger homes on larger lots pay more property taxes just about everywhere.  But do the owners of such homes actually require more municipal services?  The odds are that they don’t.  In fact, they may require fewer.

All of this brings up a larger question: Why do we tax people and their property on their income and the value of their property for government services?  Why don’t we just tax them on the basis of services?

The simple answer is that it’s politically unwise.  A recent example occurred in a Utah county that imposed a fee for police services for those areas of the county not belonging to the municipalities that paid for police services.  More than a few people simply refused to pay – and that could lead to the situation that occurred in another state, where firefighters refused to fight a fire where the homeowner had not paid a $75 firefighting fee, and the homeowner watched his home burn to the ground.

The second answer is that a significant fraction of the population cannot pay such fees, and failing to provide such government and municipal services would endanger those who can pay even more than those who cannot.  Allowing crime to go unchecked in neighborhoods that cannot pay for police services would only result in crime spreading, and in the end, those who can pay would pay even more to protect themselves.  A similar practicality applies to a number of services, from roads to sanitation, to regulation of food and highway safety, and so on.

Any community requires a baseline of services to survive.  So do nations, although that baseline varies by culture and the times.  The problem the United States faces today is that, as a nation, we’re asking for more in government programs and services than the majority of people wish to pay.  It’s no secret that 10 % of the population pays more than seventy percent of the taxes… and that, essentially, they pay for the privilege of being successful.  The plain fact is that those who are well-off pay more in taxes comparatively, percentage-wise, and in absolute terms because they’re a minority and because society as a whole insists on it, not because it’s fair.

Today, the majority of Americans don’t and won’t pay for the bulk of services that they think government should provide. That same majority thinks that it’s wrong for the richer minority to object to paying the bulk of those costs.  Why exactly is it wrong for the “rich” to object to paying a disproportionate share, and why is it right for the majority to demand services it won’t support through taxes, especially when 30% of the population pays no federal income tax at all?  McDonald’s doesn’t give free food to thirty percent of its customers, and no one thinks that’s unfair, but government certainly gives free or reduced price services to more than thirty percent of its citizens.

30 thoughts on “The “Value” Problem in Taxation”

  1. Jamey says:

    THANK YOU! This is so beyond true!

    I think this is part of what F. Paul Wilson, in his LaNague Chronicle, suggested that the Robin Hood Legend has been completely mis-interpreted. It’s not that Robin Hood “robbed from the rich, and gave to the poor”, it was that he stole the results of unjust taxation, and returned it to the taxed. But “robbed the taxman, and gave to the taxed” doesn’t quite have the same ring.

    I do have problems with corporations, as distinct from joint-stock privately held companies, with the limitations on liability enshrined in law. However, that’s a separate topic, I believe, and perhaps a rant I should develop of my own.

  2. Curtis says:

    Maybe I need to work on my reading skills, but I’m unclear on what you’re suggesting as an alternative to the existing tax structure. Are you saying a flat percentage tax would fix the country’s revenue problems? What services should we cut? Put tollbooths on all the roads?

    I’m not saying that I have any great ideas or that the current system is particularly good; I’m just looking for solutions in your essay and not seeing them. Again, the problem could be the reader.

    1. You didn’t see any solutions because I didn’t suggest any. My point was to question the philosophical basis of the current tax system. A flat tax of around 20% would work, however, especially if the mortgage interest rate and other deductions were reduced or phased out. Also, reducing the mortgage interest deduction would reduce the economic impetus for housing “bubbles.” Other possibilities include phasing out the income tax entirely and placing a value-added tax on all goods.

  3. j says:

    I would frame the issue instead in terms of allocation and reallocation–the question of who pays how much for government seems to be something of a red herring. The United States has the highest inequalities in the developed world, and allocates resources disproportionately toward the top in a way that does not always reflect the real value of work to society. Progressive taxation is one way among many of reducing those inequalities.

    Very few people seem to think that the current level of inequality in the United States is optimal. And of course very few think that inequality should be eliminated entirely. Government regulations have to step in to encourage proper balance. Perhaps there is a better way to do this than taxation, but I’m not aware of what that might be.

  4. Like it or not, there’s a trade-off between inequality and freedom in a democratic society. Greater opportunity inevitably leads to greater inequality. The question is to what degree one limits inequality and by what means. One issue seems never to be addressed in the tax dilemma, and that’s the one of deductions/tax credits, which benefit the VERY rich and the very poor disproportionately, while disadvantaging the middle class and upper middle class. The problem with specific regulations is that regulations are inevitably tailored to the advantage of those who can influence them.

  5. hob says:

    One could also argue that because the majority of personnel in the United states armed forces come from low to medium income families,(a group that the majority of Americans identify and belong to) the same majority is in its own way democratically asking the well off to contribute their share of Defense in the form of higher taxes.

    The rich maintain the parks and the poor keep the bad guys from playing in it.

    Blood and gold, those that refuse payment in one make it in the other. A fair trade in the collective mind of the one country that sees itself as the embodiment of capitalism/freedom.

    The problem is that the rich most of the time take defense for granted as they are most of the time keeping private forces/security when traveling and mistake the order provided by such services as ever present as long as they have cash. Except, no true human armed forces serve gold alone, only some form of higher philosophy like–religion, freedom, civil rights etc. And without a true army, money cannot be enforced as a form of trade, leaving those with all the gold in the world a little less certain in that park.

  6. j says:

    I take it that you’re thinking in part of a problem you’ve mentioned previously on this blog, that the upper middle class are going to take the brunt of any progressive taxation because the super-rich can more easily evade taxation through loopholes and clever accounting.

    Do you see that as simply the current state of affairs, with our very complex tax system, or can the problem be avoided by a well-run government that enacts progressive taxation without deductions, loopholes, etc. involved? In other words, is there a way to redistribute some money from the richest to the rest of society without harming the middle class, especially the upper middle class, at the same time?

    1. The problem behind all this is that a democratically elected government will never be especially well-run because it must cater to the will of the majority, and the majority will always want someone else to pay the bills. But any other form of government will inevitably become even more corrupt. I suspect this “paradox” lies behind the push for “smaller” government, but “smaller” government really means “fewer services for those without political power.”

  7. Bruce Trick says:

    I think taxes are all messed up here in Canada as well as the USA. I would propose rather than taxing income, or property exclusively there should be more emphasis on a VAT, or sales type tax. Those who spend could pay. If you spend more, you have to pay more tax. I don’t think a system exclusively of this type would work, but a change away from an income type of tax toward a consumption type of tax might help.

  8. Grant Edmunds says:

    I greatly enjoy your blog, Thank you for taking the time to maintain it. The subjects discussed are interesting and thought provoking, while the clear and intelligent opinions and analysis of politically obscured and socially explosive items is appreciated.
    However, there is one thing I would mention. Your blog is depressing. And I don’t mean in content, after all one has to expect the content of political and social discussions to be fairly depressing in this day and age. What I mean is your tone. Every article I have seen on your blog tries to fully illuminate a problem within society, you spend your time here speaking of these problems as though you were trying to persuade us (your readers) of the dire straights in which our society exists. While it is good and necessary that people be educated concerning the troubles of society, it is even more necessary for those who already know about and understand these problems to be putting forth solutions! In your response to Curtis’ comment you specifically state that you did not put forth any solutions in your article. I found this painfully obvious! In fact you appear to come quite close to offering a solution only to shy back and continue explaining. When you have made your opinion – a very educated and well thought out opinion from my point of view – when you have made your opinion of the problem quite clear, preparing us to fully understand why you believe that this, that, or the other thing, ought to be done… you end. Leaving this reader to feel as though you were doing no more than complaining to the the internet, which I am quite sure was not your intent. You are an intelligent and gifted writer with strong and educated opinions about the problems in our society. In short, potentially one of the most powerful forces known to man. But expressing discontent is simply whining unless there is a possible solution expressed at the same time.
    I apologize for any offense this post may offer you. It truly was not my intent to offend you or to intimate that I dislike the blog. I simply feel that you are telling only half the story, keeping all the rest of your thoughts bottled up in your head unwilling to share or in your heart unwilling to think.
    Thank You again for the blog I enjoy reading it.

  9. I discovered a long time ago that very few people were interested in solutions that they did not come up with by themselves… or that they did not believe that they had come up with by themselves. That’s why I may offer options, but often avoid “solutions.” The other aspect of what I bring up is that I point out that multi-faceted solutions are necessary. There is no “one” solution, and, frankly, as a professional writer, I cannot afford the time to offer a multi-paged, tightly reasoned, and documented approach here. When I was a consultant, I got paid for that. What I do here is “free,” in the sense that the only cost is to me. Yes… I do have solutions… but that’s not the point. My interest is in spurring discussion and in bringing up the flaws in so many “popular” and unworkable approaches, in the hope that my topics will lead others to look beyond the popular.

  10. Grant Edmunds says:

    I think you are talking to the wrong people, there is more to the human race than ignorant shunning of others ideas. There are people looking for solutions, whether their own or one advanced by another, whatever works best.

    There are more solutions to our problems than you could cover even if you did set aside all of your time to do it in. The point isn’t that you should show every way something could be fixed. It’s a matter of choosing one solution. One way a wrong could be righted. It seems to me that by so doing you would be more likely to spur a solution based discussion whereas by listing only flaws you encourage others to do the same. If your interest is facilitating discussion you wouldn’t even need to make have to make your defense airtight, would you? All you would have to do is make a suggestion with merit. It will, almost inevitably, be attacked, but wouldn’t that only lead to more discussion? If someone disagrees with your solution all you would have to say is “Well then, what do you suggest?” If they have nothing constructive to say, but can only criticize you need only ignore them, but this question would catch those of intelligence and draw them into your discussion. And if, after all is said and done, no one listens to your solution, what harm will it do? Will the world be a worse place for having one more good idea, heeded or not, floating around? I rather think it would be the opposite.

    In the end this is all just a selfish attempt by an uneducated person to solicit the knowledge of a person more educated, I really would like to hear what you would do to fix some of the problems with which our society is grappling.

    1. In fact, I have suggested a number of constructive solutions in various blogs, but there’s another point to what I do. As I have noted a number of times, and as more than 20 years spent in national politics have shown me, regardless of what you assert, the vast majority of people want solutions that are quick, easy, and cheap. We have created problems that are immense and complicated, for which there are no simple, cheap, and quick solutions, and one way to get this across, which I attempt to do, is to point out the problems with such proposals, in the hope that, if enough people come to understand the problems with such unworkable but politically attractive “solutions,” they just might consider other alternatives. The problem with throwing up another solution when people are wedded to what they want is that the only ones who listen are those who agree with you.

      1. Grant Edmunds says:

        Perhaps. Blind rejection of new ideas, most especially when they involve hard decisions, is certainly a common enough fault at any rate.
        Thank You for responding

  11. hob says:

    And how would you suggest Mr Modesitt be compensated for his efforts? Are you willing to pay for his time? Or arrange some alternative method in which he would get paid?

    Do you not see that he is being as neutral as possible so that he may voice his concerns without alienating those who do pay for his time as an author?

  12. Bob Kinton says:

    I am simply aghast at the assumptions in your analysis about how wealthy individuals become wealthy, and therefor how their “share” of taxes should be calculated. And not only your assumptions, but those of so many moderately or aspiring-to-be succesful young men (mostly) in our Western economies, especially those who espouse variants of Ayn Rand’s ideas (I’m not accusing you of this).

    No wealthy person can be wealthy in a vacuum. Move Warren Buffet to Mars, and all his rumored skills at investing would not make him one dime wealthier. We all depend on infrastructure created by the efforts of many others in our efforts to gather our piles of what we consider valuable. If this one or that one manages to gather a disproportionate share – leaving aside for a moment whether we want to credit or reward them for abilities they were lucky enough to be born with – it usually means they also use a disproportionate share of the infrastructure or commons, directly or indirectly. Why shouldn’t we tax them proportionately to the amount of our society’s resources they use to gather their wealth? They depend on educated workers, police and fire services, and so on, and they or the corporate structures they leverage their activities with use more of these resources and services than a “poor” person would or could.

    And this doesn’t even take into consideration the “game” of economic markets, which no one can play to their advantage unless others play it to their disadvantage.

    Now lets consider the supposed talents for which we reward a wealthy person. They may have a genetic advantage in intellect or physical stamina or even cleverness or sociopathic ability to take from others without remorse. Or they may have “worked hard” to take advantage of what they were given; as many have pointed out, no human can work even ten times harder than the hardest working poor person – so why should we credit them with thousands of times the wealth? We all may allow them to gather such huge hoards, and we may reward them for it; but that’s quite different than them “deserving” it and therefor be “unfairly taxed”.

    We are all in this together – the lazy, the easy-to-take-advantage-of, the hard working, the smart, the dumb, the rich, the poor – and if we choose to tax more a group who we have allowed to gather and control more of our common wealth, that’s just the way it is. Its perfectly human for a wealthy person to want to hold onto what they have, but that doesn’t make it “theirs” in any absolute sense. In fact, to the extent that they fail to realize their dependence on others and credit only themselves, they are sociopaths.

    1. In return, I’m somewhat aghast at your assumptions. I’m neither particularly young nor aspiring to be “wealthy” at the expense of others. In writing, I do not monopolize or prey on others, and no one is forced to buy what I produce. This is true of many productive people, just as it is true that many others behave as you have described. BUT… over the years I have observed that the vast majority of people who are successful work far harder and far longer than those who are not. Again, this is not to say that there are not “lazy” rich. Nor is our economic system anywhere close to perfect in that it does not reward adequately many whose contributions are vital [something I have noted repeatedly]. But this “unfairness” is supported by the majority, which does not wish to recompense such individuals fairly, and not by those who are well-off [the well-off can’t impose this condition in a democratic society because there aren’t enough of them]. You’re also falling prey to the “effort” illusion when you say that “no human being can work even ten times harder” because the underlying assumption is that all work is valued — or worth — the same. It’s not, either in practice or reality. Just try valuing it that way and see how long you have a society.

      My basic point remains that those who accomplish less and earn less want those who accomplish and earn more to pay the societal freight. Your point seems to be that the majority has right to demand vastly more, both absolutely and proportionately, of those who have more, simply because those who have made more could not have done so without the assistance of others. On an ethical basis,I fail to see why I, for example, should be taxed more absolutely and proportionately than a less successful author merely because more people choose to purchase my books. I did not consume more in producing those books, or demand more in services from government in producing them. Nor did I exploit anyone in doing so. In my previous consulting work, I also noted that, more often than not, the more successful business enterprises impose less of a cost on government and infrastructure than less successful ones… and they and their executives and employees pay more taxes.

  13. Grant Edmunds says:

    There is more to life than money. Making, even a small difference for the better is worth many hours of work to myself and I believe Mr. Modesitt feels similarly or he wouldn’t bother with this blog, for which, as you have pointed out, he is not payed.

    I don’t think he is trying to be particularly neutral, for which I am glad. Neutrality does very little good to anyone. We need courage, not neutrality.

    (oh and as for your last comment I am one of those who pays for his time as an author. Why do think I came looking for this blog?)

  14. hob says:

    Your paying for his time as an author, the blog is free.

    ‘There is more to life than money…’

    Yet those that starve and are enslaved without healthy trade/money in their societies would ask if there is any meaning in this life without money/trade.

    ‘We need Courage, not neutrality…’

    Is there a war, an epic struggle? Or are the problems caused because the solutions take a lot of time and are extremely boring to carry out. People have better things to do, after all work hard, play hard, is modern capitalism, right? Would you say that solving the problems of society is a form of work or play?
    Who is going to pay for the time finding and implementing the solutions Mr Edmunds? Or do you feel Courage and Honor should be enough? If that’s the case then the most Honorable in your society, those that serve in the armed forces, shouldn’t need to get paid, correct?

    (oh and as for your last comment I am one of those who pays for his time as an author. Why do think I came looking for this blog?)

    Yes, but would his opinions carry weight if you had not paid for his time previously? After all, as you yourself state–an uneducated person seeking the opinions of one who is. How do you define an educated person Mr Edmunds?
    Is there such a thing as an highly educated poor person? Do you personally know of any?
    Mr Edmunds, how will you confirm Mr Modesitt’s solutions are workable if you your self don’t spend time studying the problems? Is it because Mr Modesitt is exempt from being human/corruptible? And if as you write, even a small difference in society is worth the many hours, why haven’t you?

    1. Grant Edmunds says:

      Hob you have nothing of worth to say, as such I will not try to discuss with you. Don’t be offended if your future comments all go unanswered.

      1. hob says:

        Ok, I’ll try not to be offended.

  15. Jamey says:

    Those looking for Mr. Modesitt’s suggestions for solutions, should look to his various novels. I know his thoughts on ethics and society presented in Parafaith War, the Forever Hero, the Ecolitan Institute suggest many solutions, solutions which, like those presented by Heinlein and other SciFi authors, really haven’t been tried. Then again, as Heinlein points out in Time Enough For Love – there’s never been a society founded where *EVERY* member claimed to believe in democracy, so we really haven’t even tried out the ones we think we have properly.

  16. Chris says:


    First off, love the books. Please keep writing them 🙂

    Now to my gripe, why are only 1/2 your books available as ebooks.. and those that are, even fewer are available in Canada?

    I’m all for re-buying in digital, but when I keep getting “not available in Canada”.. I find myself more and more willing to endure a pirated copy.. (not ideal).

    Darksong Rising (US Only) – Was able to buy the rest of the series.
    Recluce (can only find 1/3 of them and they are all over the map as to series placement)

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t control or even influence much e-book sales outside the US. I’ve been able to get both Amazon and B&N to put virtually all the Recluce books in either Nook or Kindle format, but the whole foreign ebooks rights issue is a huge mess… and one that the publishers need to get under control before they — and we authors — lose everything.

  17. I personally am in favor of the flat tax, thereby eliminating the asinine and loophole-rife tax code. I am also in favor of the balanced budget amendment, which if I am to understand its premise correctly simply states that the federal government cannot spent more than it brings in during any given year. It would be against the law to do so. Yet such common-sense steps towards fiscal sanity are often derided or dismissed by both Left and Right. Which worries me greatly for the country because sooner or later both our debt and our deficit will bite us. Badly.

  18. I would also add that any discussion of taxation or government services inevitably revives conversations revolving around class warfare. I’m at a curious point in my life where I feel like I can see both sides of the issue fairly clearly.

    I came from a rock-bottom point in 1994 where my wife and I — during our first year of marriage — had no insurance, made minimum wage on part-time work, and between us made less than $10,000 total. We were literally poor, and barring some timely chip-in assistance at holiday season from both church and family, we’d have been in dire straits come Christmas of 2004. Like, nothing to eat and out on the street! Oh, and my wife’s severe, chronic asthma racked up some big medical bills for us, so we had some debt problems.

    Flash forward to 2010, my wife and I own our own home — first time ever! — and I am personally bringing in money from three different sources: full-time civilian employment, part-time military service, and now (finally) steady part-time income from writing; which I hope to eventually turn into full-time income. My wife brings in money from two other part-time sources, mostly leisure sources she is able to fit around her schedule as a Mom.

    We are, by the standards of our own lives during our first year together, astoundingly rich. We are rich beyond measure. Our house, our income, our earned benefits, the fruition of opportunity and hard work, it’s all coming back to use.

    So I get why lots of people want to soak the rich. Take those greedy bastards for every penny and let them see how the other half lives for awhile. Being poor is terrible. It’s awful stuff, not knowing where the next meal might come from or having to seek assistance of any sort. But in spite of what my wife and I went through, these things did not turn me into a socialist. Mainly because I knew, even in the depths of the worst of it way back when, that a better life could be forged through work. And I didn’t like the idea — I still don’t like the idea — of inventing a society wherein hard work is punished by taking away what’s earned through hard work, and giving it to those who don’t work as hard. Or who, as L.E. notes, aren’t doing work with equal value.

    Granted, that “equal value” thing is a sticky, sticky question. But I think it’s safe to say that the guy making fries at McDonalds — I used to be that guy, several times in my life in fact — is doing work that is not nearly as valuable to the human project as, say, a guy working on cancer cures or doing open-heart surgery.

    Now, we have problems with the value model too. A (mostly) free market has allowed us to reward D student grade-scrapers with sports skills to become millionaires in their 20s, while a middle school teacher with a Masters degree makes 1% of that. It’s kind of sad that this is the reality, but here again the question presents itself: do we artifically through legislation and taxation, or even wage caps, “level” the field?

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want the federal system “leveling” my earning potential just because some bureaucratic know-better has decided that I only deserve a $57,999.99 per year income, regardless of my education or how hard I work or how many bright ideas I come up with. We’ve seen through experience what happens in societies — like the Soviety Union — where such capping takes places. One, the cap is never hard. Even the Soviets had rich and poor. Two, the cap destroys initiative and creates society-wide malaise, in terms of total productivity. Why work hard at all or seek to better one’s condition, when everyone is mandated to have the same level of income, the same lifestyle, the same economic standard?

    Sounds great for everyone living well below the median. But in the long term, it’s not sustainable, as the Soviet model proved. There is a reason the Chinese have allowed a middle class to emerge. In another generation the Chinese might have an upper-middle. Because the Chinese too had to face the fact that while they kept the productivity potential of their educational-capable, hard-working people slumbering in a bottle, they would never be a first-rate world power.

    The United States was the 20th century’s greatest world power because the United States rode its middle and upper-middle class through both WWII and the Cold War. And in order to have a middle and upper-middle class you have to allow for those who work harder than other people, especially at work which is premium value, to make more and KEEP more money in their pockets, than those who don’t work as much and/or do not do work that has as much value.

    Which I guess just makes me a heartless greedy capitalistic bastard? But so be it. I am not opposed to trying to help the less fortunate. I am just not sure it’s the federal government’s job to ensure that everybody is the same — economically. Such programs and systems are even less stable and feasible, in the long-term, than our current system. And when the system collapses… how long does it take to claw out of the wreckage?

  19. Gah, damned typo. I meant to write, “Christmas of 1994.” Not Christmas of 2004. Though I will say that 2004 was a lean year, as it was the first year in many — back then — when we went with a single income, due to the birth of our daughter and my wife staying home to take care of the baby.

  20. AMos says:

    “But this “unfairness” is supported by the majority, which does not wish to recompense such individuals fairly, and not by those who are well-off [the well-off can’t impose this condition in a democratic society because there aren’t enough of them].”

    Mr. Modesitt, I don’t think this is an entirely accurate statement. The well-off have long been vastly over-represented in almost all media outlets [or at least the ones that are consumed enough to actually influence public opinion]. Due in part to the recent case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, but also to several previous cases that have weakened the McCain-Feingold election law and others, these same “well-off” can now influence even more of their fellow citizens.

    For years now we’ve had to deal with the misinformation of biased media like Fox News and Gannet newspapers on one side, and less successful but also influential outlets like MSNBC on the other side. But now we’ve taken a step further toward allowing the well-off to “impose” whatever conditions they can convince the rest of us to stomach.

    As an example, see the recent University of Maryland study about misinformation in the 2010 election:

    [The full text of the study itself can be found here: ]

    1. You’re confusing “influence” with power. The wealthy minority doesn’t have the votes in and of itself to impose much of anything. That minority can only get its way by persuasion and influence. You’re asssuming that Fox News et al are influencing rather than reflecting or appealing to existing biases. A lesson I learned a long time ago in politics is that money itself doesn’t win elections; votes do. Recent elections prove this as well, not that money doesn’t make it vastly easier.

  21. AMos says:

    “And in order to have a middle and upper-middle class you have to allow for those who work harder than other people, especially at work which is premium value, to make more and KEEP more money in their pockets, than those who don’t work as much and/or do not do work that has as much value.”

    @ Mr. Torgersen:
    I also have to disagree with you here, not at face value, but at the inherent assumption behind this statement. Essentially you’re suggesting that the work wealthy people do is more valuable than the work poor people do, and also that they work harder at it. Like you I’ve been at the bottom of the barrel, and for much of my life had held down more than one job at a time, often more than two.

    At one point several years ago I was a full time instructor in composition at a state university, a part-time writing tutor, and a freelance editor. Most weeks I put in 80+ hours of work and I was certainly not very well paid. Did I work less than speculative bankers that drove the housing bubble into a mortgage crisis? Was my work of less value? I shudder to think so, and yet they were certainly vastly more well-compensated.

    The sad truth is that all too often the people who are most well-paid are not the ones who actually produce something of value; rather, they’re the corporations and investors who support that valuable work by people who are not so well-compensated. These funders play a valuable role, but that’s because the current system works that way. It is not the only way to fund such work, nor is it necessarily the best way. We mustn’t reverse the old philosophical problem and confuse the “is” with the “ought.”

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